Mulloway making waves
  |  First Published: July 2016

After a pelagic season that seemed to go on forever, winter has finally decided to show its true colours in the Macleay Valley. While day temperatures have been fairly mild, there have been plenty of sub zero mornings in Kempsey and further upriver into the mountains making the winter westerly winds cold as ice.

Finding motivation during the colder months is always challenging to say the least, especially when early starts are involved. For those who are keen, there is still a vast array of species available to get you through to the warmer months.

Rock and beach anglers are currently experiencing an extraordinary run of mulloway. These fish have ranged from good-sized schoolies through to absolute monsters. The annual mullet migration was very late this year and even when they ran the volume was down considerably. As a result, the large predatory mulloway have been laying in wait for the spawning fish to arrive.

Most rocky outcrops, inshore reefs and headlands along our coastline have been absolutely loaded with mulloway for months now. This pattern seems to be similar both up and down the coastline of New South Wales this year. Larger paddle-tail soft plastics like the Lunker City Shaker 6” as well as large whole live and dead baits consistently catch the bigger fish. Big tailor are also in abundance this winter especially when spinning the washes during the low light periods of dawn and dusk. Bream, drummer and groper are just a few of many other species that can be targeted off the headlands. The best times to chase the above species is directly after periods of larger swell when the waves loosen up all the food from the rocks that these fish feed on.

Kingfish are another species that have revived in the area lately. These fish have shown up in the river and along the beaches quite frequently, which is not that common. They have also been around their usual haunts – around the headlands, Green Island, Black Rock, Fish Rock and just about every wreck and pinnacle located out to about 250m or so. It is hard to go past a live slimy mackerel or yellowtail when chasing kingfish, in most of these situations remember that bait cannot be used within 200m of Fish Rock and Green Island due to grey nurse shark sanctuary zones. Knife jigs and larger octo jigs can be just as productive on any given day and can be legally used within these sanctuary zones.

Bottom fishing is at its most productive out in the 60-80m regions at present. Pearl perch, teraglin, venus tuskfish and snapper are all on the cards when fishing this depth. As we progress into winter the shallow reef fishery will become stronger and light jigging and soft plastic fishing will be successful, as well as the good old method of anchoring up and setting a berley trail to drift baits down.

Mackerel and yellowfin tuna are still around the place along with some straggling longtails. Troll lures from spot to spot while bottom fishing to get into a few mackerel and wahoo.

As with the rocks and beaches, the Macleay River has also been loaded with mulloway. While some of the fish are smaller in the river, it is still definitely the place to catch the fish of a lifetime. Live baiting is probably the best method to snare a big mulloway in the river. The phrase bigger is better is definitely relevant when live baiting in the river as bigger baits keep the bream at bay and cut out the chances of catching one of the resident undersized schoolies. Just remember if you use a fish for live bait it must be of legal length if a legal length is applicable for that given species.

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